It feels like summer. I’m not sure if spring ever happened. Sitting in my basement office, I watched a long winter transform directly into summer. I’m just glad the sun is out, it’s warm and school is almost over for our stressed yet resilient kids. For many, summer is synonymous with summer camp, and I’ve been hearing about Gabriel’s online leadership training as he prepares to be a counselor again at the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech.
“Hearing about” the counselor training and actually hearing some of it directly, as everyone in my household can hear the murmuring of zoom calls and videos from various rooms. The URJ 6 Points Specialty Camps have always impressed me. They do seamless what most Jewish camps struggle to do: make Judaism relevant to everyday and show how Jewish values are directly relevant to the childrens’ interests. Video games that teach moral lessons; morning prayers before an experimental explosion (the Boker Big Bang); and so much more. Marisa will be heading to the URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, so I’ll get learn how Judaism is integrated into performing and visual arts.
What these camps are teaching should be obvious to us but isn’t always: Judaism is relevant. Today, in Talmud class, we started what looked to be a very boring discussion about how cooking is defined so we know what not to do on Shabbat. In our class, we tend to speed through the “boring” sections and then dig deep into the text that grabs our interest. Often, what appears to be boring on the surface leads to tangents that are relevant and fascinating.
Our conversation today led us to the theory that the cooking stove was likely communal, shared by a few families or even more. One or two people would likely have expertise in the rules and thus would have to monitor how all the families used the stove to keep it “kosher”. We imagined this would involve instruction and sometimes gentle rebuke, but that the role was necessary, and abiding by it was required of those who agreed to live in community.
From there – and here our conversation became very timely – we began to talk about the challenges of re-gathering in person. For example, when a communal organization, like a synagogue, requires mask-wearing, who will monitor it? Who will volunteer to give instruction and gentle rebuke when people arrive without masks or wear them incorrectly? And how will community members respond, knowing our presence indicates that we have agreed to the stated communal expectations?
We didn’t answer the questions, but it was a relevant and interesting discussion. And when we turned back to the text to learn more about cooking and Shabbat, we all agreed that at the very least, this rabbi should NOT be in charge of cooking.